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Acura TL

DVD-Audio, Bluetooth, Come to Automobiles

by Jim Bray

Music storage is changing and the compact disc is dead.

Well, almost. After 20 years, the little digital disc is still wildly popular, but now that DVD’s have come along their larger storage capability is being exploited not only for movies and television shows, but to up the musical quality ante from the already-terrific compact disc to new heights of fidelity.

It’s DVD Audio, of course, a format that’s still young but which is showing signs of catching on – albeit slowly for now. Check out our DVD Audio section for introductions to the technology and reviews of a selection of DVD Audio titles.


But just as CD’s couldn’t be played in the cassette decks they were poised to replace, DVD-Audio discs can’t be played in a conventional CD player, which makes their ultra high quality sound useless if you want to take your tunes on the road with you - and your car doesn’t have a DVD entertainment system built it.

And even if your vehicle is DVD-equipped, chances are it isn’t true DVD-Audio – just DVD Video – and so while the audio quality can still be terrific it ain’t the real thing.

What’s a self respecting audiophile to do?

Well, you could buy a 2004 Acura TL. This is a car that pushes the outside of the audio envelope.

And in our disposable age, where it almost seems as if built in obsolescence is the norm, it's worth mentioning when a company offers something so up to date that its customers will be able to grow into it over the next few years, instead of growing out of it.

So it is that I do a second piece on the upscale Acura TL performance sedan. This car is not only a wonderful vehicle, it comes with accessories that no one should be without, but which most people are, so far.

My favorite innovation is DVD-Audio, which meant that when I tested the car I could bring all my music discs, not just my CD’s.


The TL's system plays every music format you can imagine, short of Super Audio CD’s (SACD), which is a shame but not too surprising. But it handles DVD-Audio and the surround sound music discs from dts without breaking a sweat, it plays regular and home burned CD's and the car’s in dash changer treats all the discs the same so you don’t have to worry about what format is which and where it sits in the 6 disc changer. All you have to do is press play and crank it up as loud as it’ll go.

And it goes loud, though not quite loud enough for my tastes – but perhaps that’s a safety feature to prevent head bangers such as myself from going deaf!

The system is a fully fledged 5.1 system, so while you get the normal complement of speakers mounted throughout the car, they’re set up in the familiar 5.1 configuration rather than just having front and rear speakers (with balance and fade controls) and a subwoofer. You set the balance via the LCD screen that also doubles as navigation display in a quick and easy manner that doesn’t require your eyes to leave the road for long (though of course you should set it while the car’s stationary).


It works, and it works well. The audio quality is something I’ve never heard before in a vehicle of any price (though of course I’ve come nowhere near hearing them all). The system thunders through the DVD-A version of Led Zeppelin’s “How the West Was Won”, yet the delicacy of a good Strauss waltz is also reproduced beautifully and faithfully. You also get the lovely "live" ambience made possible by the 5.1 surround system, something you can’t really get with a CD regardless of how many speakers there are and where they’re mounted.

So I loved the sound, I loved the convenience and the seamlessness of its functionality, and I loved being able to bring my new, high resolution audio discs on the road with me.

Let’s hope the competition of the free market means this is a trend that’s about to explode in the marketplace.

And that isn’t the end of the TL’s technological trickery.

The car is also Bluetooth equipped. Bluetooth is a radio frequency standard for wireless devices that lets Bluetooth-equipped gadgets talk with each other.


In the case of the Acura TL, Bluetooth works as both a safety and convenience feature, because it allows a cell phone to automatically become a hands free unit – even if you don't take it out of your pocket. It just has to be turned on.

Now, it won’t do this with every cell phone. The cell phone has to be Bluetooth equipped as well, be equipped with what's called the hands free profile, and you have to go through a one time setup to train it and the car to recognize each other. But once that’s done, you're off to the races - with both hands firmly on the steering wheel.

If a call comes in while you're driving, the caller's number shows up on the instrument panel, the ring comes over the car’s speakers, and all the driver has to do to answer is press a button on the steering wheel. The audio system mutes automatically and algorithms built into the car help cancel out road and other background noise. There's a microphone built into the ceiling so you can talk hands free, and whoever's on the other end of the call is heard over the audio system.

This works for sending calls, too, and you can dial using voice commands. The system stores up to 50 phone numbers.

It'll probably take a couple of years before DVD Audio and Bluetooth become mainstream at all, let alone in the automotive industry, but credit Honda for creating the Acura TL and making it ready today.

How's that for obsolescence-fighting?


Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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